Local police chiefs face the public in virtual town hall following George Floyd’s death

Madison365 hosted an hour and a half long virtual town hall to address what happened in the viral video

MADISON, Wis. — In response to the unfolding events in Minneapolis, CEO of the Dane County Boys & Girls Club Michael Johnson called on all local police agencies to respond in 24 hours to his request to publicly condemn the actions of the four Minneapolis police officers involved in the arrest and death of 46-year old George Floyd.

Madison 365 hosted a virtual town hall moderated by Henry Sanders.

Johnson kicked off the town hall and said, “This was a clear abuse of authority. It showed a lack of respect for Mr. Floyd’s life and has traumatized many in our community.”

Director of Reentry Services at Nehemiah Anthony Cooper shared his response to the video and said, “This man committed murder. Period.”

Pastor Marcus Allen expressed his frustration and anger over Floyd’s death and how Minneapolis police officers handled his arrest.

“White people started racism and white people need to end it,” Allen said. “Which means white people need to step up to the plate and not allow this silence to happen and be fine with seeing black bodies being dead in the street.”

The town hall included UW Police Chief Kristen Roman, Fitchburg Police Chief Chad Brecklin, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney, Madison Police Chief Victor Wahl, Sun Prairie Police Chief Michael Steffes, Middleton Police Chief Troy Hellenbrand and Dane County mother Jaquelyn Hunt.

All of the law enforcement officials on the virtual meeting are white and that did not go unaddressed in the town hall. The chiefs responded to that saying that they are currently reaching out in new ways to reach a more diverse pool of candidates to fill positions in the future that are more representative of the communities they serve.

Many addressed their use of force policies saying that the restraint method used in Floyd’s case is not part of the training in Dane County and that use of force is only appropriate when the suspect is resisting arrest.

Hunt she said she was tired of hearing the same policies being discussed because they clearly aren’t working.

“It sounds like more of the same,” Hunt said. “They protect themselves around the practices and policies they have in place. That is not going to continue to work in our society. It doesn’t look like the policies and procedures you put in place 50 years ago.”

Hunt said she worries endlessly about her own kids when she sees things like what happened to Floyd, because she feels that could be her kids someday.

“As I hear the things that come out, I’m not sure they have the ability to hear through my ears as a black mother,” she said.

Hunt said she and many others are fed up with the same policies that don’t seem to push us forward toward a better or more equal world.

“Where is the heart that heard that man say,  ‘I can’t breathe. Momma. Momma.’ Who in the hell wouldn’t respond to that? What’s going on in a heart?”

Towards the end of the call, Roman publicly acknowledged that “systems of institutionalized racism exist and we are within many of those.”

Although this town hall doesn’t solve the bigger issue at hand, many left the call agreeing this was at least the first step in the right direction.